Yemen’s Deadly Seas: Fishermen Come Under Fire in Saudi War


Of the 86 fishermen on the six boats, 50 died.

Identifying the perpetrators of maritime attacks is notoriously difficult, especially in a war as chaotic and opaque as the one in Yemen. Both the Saudi-led coalition and its Houthi foes, who are backed by Iran, have carried out attacks at sea.

But maritime experts, a former United States Navy officer, United Nations investigators and several Yemeni officials said there was little doubt that the Saudi-led coalition was responsible for some if not all of the violence against fishermen.

Saudi and Emirati naval boats dominate the Red Sea waters where the shootings and bombings took place. Five involved attack helicopters, which the Houthis do not have. In one instance, Saudi officials made cash payments of nearly $500,000 to the families of fishermen killed in an attack.

In another, coalition sailors detained 12 survivors and held them for three months in a Saudi prison, where the fishermen said they were interrogated and tortured. Eight of those detainees were recently released after receiving a payment of $1,300 each from their Saudi captors.

“A soldier posed with us in the prison for a photo and said, ‘Sorry if we hurt you,’” Yaqoub Okad, 20, said in an interview after his return to Yemen.

In a statement issued via the embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, a coalition spokesman, Col. Turki al-Malki, confirmed that a coalition vessel had opened fire on that boat, the Ansar, and captured 12 fishermen. He said the boat’s crew had ignored warnings from a warship accompanying a Saudi oil tanker through the Red Sea. Three of the fishermen turned out to be “armed Houthi terrorists,” he said.

Colonel Malki declined to answer questions about the other five attacks between Aug. 1 and Sept. 15, which he said had been referred to the coalition’s internal investigations body.

Source : Nytimes